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Lawsuit filed over 'floating hell' cruise

By Tom Watkins, CNN
February 16, 2013 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
  • NEW: "This is not the kind of thing where people are paralyzed, people died," CNN's Jeffrey Toobin says
  • "It's too early to put any type of number on it," lawyer says of possible damages
  • Passenger endured "deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions," suit says
  • Carnival says it has not seen the lawsuit

(CNN) -- "A floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell." That was how a Texas woman described the Triumph in a lawsuit filed Friday against Carnival Cruise Lines.

In the nine-page complaint, Cassie Terry, of Lake Jackson, south of Houston, seeks unspecified damages for what she says she endured on a vacation cruise aboard the Triumph to Mexico.

The cruise departed Galveston on February 7. Three days later, when the ship was 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, "an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift," the complaint says.

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For the following nearly five days, Terry, 25, "was forced to endure deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including but not limited to, sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of hot or running water, and lack of working toilets," it says.

During the tow back to the United States, "the vessel listed sharply several times, causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the Vessel's floors and halls, and drip down the Vessel's walls," it says.

"Plaintiff was forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled Vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food. Plaintiff was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell."

See sewage run down walls inside ship
'Everyone will need psychological help'

According to the complaint, "Defendant knew the vessel was not seaworthy, either at the time it contracted with Plaintiff, or at the point of departure, but did not advise Plainttiff the Vessel had and was experiencing problems with its propulsion and/or engine room fire suppression equipment."

As a result of relying on Carnival's representations, "Plaintiff has been injured in mind and body," it says.

Passengers credit crew's work

Lawyer Brent Allison, a partner in Gilman & Allison of Pearland, Texas, said Terry "was feeling nauseated and running a fever."

Asked what his client was seeking, he said, "It's too early to put any type of number" on it.

"We have not yet seen the suit and are not in a position to comment," Carnival said in a statement.

Investigation under way

Carnival has said it would give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the gestures by Carnival are likely a starting point for negotiations. Most litigation, he said, will not go to trial.

"You can be sure Carnival wants to avoid reliving this experience in court, because it has, of course, been a public relations disaster," Toobin said Friday.

"Yes, this was very inconvenient, it was very unpleasant, but this is not the kind of thing where people are paralyzed, people died," Toobin said. "That's where the big money tends to be in lawsuits. This is mostly, I think, a public relations problem for Carnival. Who is going to want to go on one of these cruises? That's the issue they will really have to think about."

The towed Triumph arrived in Mobile, Alabama, late Thursday.

Cruising into court

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